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   Chapter 31 No.31

A Girl of the People By L. T. Meade Characters: 2841

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:06


When Bet got to Liverpool she went straight to Paradise Row. She intended to spend the night with Mother Bunch, to borrow a little money from her, and to return to Warrington by an early train in the morning. It was about half-past nine when she reached the Irishwoman's house. There was considerable noise and merriment going on within, and Bet heard the scraping of a fiddle, the air of an Irish jig, and the tap-tap of feet as they danced on the floor. She paused, with a sense of dismay stealing over her. Her nerves were highly-strung-she was in an excited, exalted state, and the loud mirth was particularly uncongenial. She wondered if she could slip upstairs unperceived-she wondered if her old attic were still unoccupied. The door of Mother Bunch's room was wide open-bright light streamed into the passage; but Bet making a dart rushed past the door, and went up the dark, broken, dangerous stairs. She reached the old attic, and then started back with an expression of dismay. It was undoubtedly occupied. A candle burned in a shaded corner; a clean bright little fire shone in the grate; a table, with a cloth on it, held medicine, and a glass; and on the bed where Bet herself used to lie slept a child. She was turning away, with a cold feeling round her heart-she had always fancied, doubtless without any reason, that Mother Bunch would keep the little attic vacant for her. She crouched down on the lan

ding, waiting until the merriment should cease downstairs before she sought Mother Bunch.

Presently she heard the sleeping child stir restlessly, and moan in a very feeble manner. This sound smote on her heart.

"Whoever have the charge of that poor lamb don't set much store by it," she commented. "I'll go in and speak soft to the child. Dear heart, what a feeble moan-it might a'most be a baby."

She took off her heavy shoes, and crept back into the room. The outline of the form in the bed was not that of a very little child.

"About the age of the captain or the general?" murmured Bet. "I must be careful if the young 'un's weak not to startle the poor lamb."

She stirred the fire very gently, and seeing a little sauce-pan with something simmering in it on the hob, tasted it, and found it was beef-tea. She poured a little into a cracked tea-cup, and when the child moaned again-and this moan was even fainter than the last-went up to the bed, determined to act the part of the absent mother, who was so shamefully neglecting her sick child.

"Here, honey, take a sip," she said, and she put her strong firm arm under the restless little head. The small face was in shadow. Bet raised the head higher. "Drink, dearie," she said again. There was a pause. Bet's own face could be seen-Bet's own face could be recognized.

"Bet-Bet!" said the captain-"oh, Bet-I did ax God to bring you back to me!"

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